Google suffered a major regulatory blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant 2.4 billion euros, or $2.7 billion, for unfairly favoring some of its own search services over those of rivals. The European Commission concluded that the search giant abused its near-monopoly in online search to “give illegal advantage” to its own Shopping service. Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, said Google “denied other companies the chance to compete” and left consumers without “genuine choice.” The hefty fine marks the latest chapter in a lengthy standoff between Europe and Google, which also faces two separate charges under the region’s competition rules related to Android, its popular mobile software, and to some of its advertising products. From a report: Google has 90 days to “stop its illegal conduct” and give equal treatment to rival price-comparison services, according to a binding order from the European Commission on Tuesday. It’s up to Google to choose how it does this and it must tell the EU within 60 days of its plans. Failure to comply brings a risk of fines of up to 5 percent of its daily revenue. […] “I expect the Commission now to swiftly conclude the other two ongoing investigations against Google,” Markus Ferber, a member of the European Parliament from Germany. “Unfortunately, the Google case also illustrates that competition cases tend to drag on for far too long before they are eventually resolved. In a fast-moving digital economy this means often enough that market abuse actually pays off and the abuser succeeds in eliminating the competition.” Google has been pushing its own comparison shopping service since 2008, systematically giving it prominent placement when people search for an item, the EU said. Rival comparison sites usually only appear on page four of search results, effectively denying them a massive audience as the first page attracts 95 percent of all clicks. In a blog post, Google said the EU has “underestimated” the value Google’s services brings to the table. “We believe the European Commission’s online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections. While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data show that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches. We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay. […] Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case,” wrote Kent Walker, SVP and General Counsel at Google.
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